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How to make settlement day as painless as possible

By Nadien Elias

In the rollcall of painful life events, moving house on settlement day is up there with root canals and Brazilian waxing.

Unlike dental surgery and hair-removal, however, there are no anaesthetics or cooling lotions to lessen the irritation (unless you count the well-deserved champagne in your new house when the last box has finally been unloaded).

Settlement – the moment when your lawyer meets your lender and the seller’s representative to hand over documents before they’re delivered to the land titles office – is often scheduled to occur around the middle of the day.

If all goes to plan, you should be able to pick up the keys straight afterwards. If not, you could be in a world of pain and – in the worst case – hotel and emergency storage bills.

Here, in lieu of a soothing balm, is a list of tips to make that most ghastly of days more bearable.

  • Be a settlement swot. Get all the paperwork in order ahead of time. Don’t underestimate the amount of document-witnessing, ID-providing and money-shuffling this involves. Just one misplaced signature can delay the entire process, ruining an already crappy day. Don’t forget to redirect your mail and switch over utilities.
  • Clap eyes on the property at a final inspection before settlement. Yes, you might still have two boxes of nanna’s teacups to pack (more on that later), but it is always worth seeing the home before you seal the deal. Bring the sale contract to tick off inclusions. Make sure appliances and keys work, and everything is in the same condition as when you exchanged contracts.
  • Hop on the de-cluttering bandwagon. There is no better time to get rid of stuff than before you need to haul said stuff to a new address. Be brutal: if you haven’t used it in the past year, ditch it. We both know you’ll never use that ab roller again.
  • Stock up on packing supplies. It’s better to over-estimate how much you’ll need than be forced to dash to the shops for more masking tape after the removalists arrive. Speaking of which, it’s never too early to start packing. Even if you’re a month away from D-day, there are bound to things you can live without for a few weeks.
  • Envisage your possessions in your new home. Label each box clearly, including where it will go. Don’t forget to think about heavy stuff, such as bookshelves: better to have the experts shift them than to do your back in. Tape screws to furniture.
  • Ask if your moving company will allow a lunch-break around settlement time, especially if you expect any delays with the process. This could save you an hour’s fees. If the clock is ticking, they could start unloading onto your new front yard. When moving into an apartment block, check any rules regarding access. In an ideal world, your packing should be finished by the time the truck arrives.
  • Outsource as much as your budget allows. Getting someone to pack fiddly and breakable kitchen items, such as nanna’s teacups, can be a huge stress-saver. If you can afford it, consider booking a cleaner for when your boxes are out of the old place, and maybe even at the new place as well. Your real estate agent should be able to suggest names. Outsource children and pets too, if possible. And have plenty of cash handy.
  • Pack a first-night bag to take in your car. Include all the items you will need at the end of this horrendous day: phone charger, soap, towels, toilet paper, toothbrushes and paste, pyjamas, champagne, glasses. While you’re at it, pack another box with the first night’s bedding, plus breakfast things – including the kettle – and remotes.
  • Ask a buddy to bring dinner on the first night. Even if you have finished unloading, you’ll probably be too exhausted to go hunting for takeaway. Failing that, freeze dinner in individual serves. Don’t forget where you put the microwave.
  • Make the beds, crack open the bubbly and vow never to do this again. Until next time. Elicia Murray (Domain.com.au Writer)
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